Vicente Del Bosque will face a very difficult test on Tuesday when his Spain side takes on France. With the French leading the group for World Cup Qualifying, this can be seen as a must win for La Roja.
However, Spain will have to contend without several key players.
Carles Puyol and Iker Casillas will both miss the clash due to injuries. Jordi Alba will also miss out after picking up an injury in Spain’s draw against Finland. Lastly, David Silva will be suspended for the encounter (via Goal).
Del Bosque does have good news in that both Xavi and Xabi Alonso have recovered from injury. But even with the two stars returning to the lineup, La Roja will have a definite selection headache ahead of them.
So who should fill in for the missing players? More importantly, how will Del Bosque set up his lineup to face a very dangerous France team? Let’s take a look.
There is little question over who will start in the place of Iker Casillas. Victor Valdes is Spain’s true backup, and he will most likely start between the sticks against France.
But the back line may be the hardest area to predict.
Jordi Alba’s absence will leave a very tough question. Del Bosque could opt to move Arbeloa over to the left and slide Sergio Ramos back his former right-back position. But this would leave a glaring weak point with whoever would line up beside Gerard Pique.
More likely, it will be Arsenal left-back Natxo Monreal who will fill in for Jordi Alba.
Monreal has only made 10 appearances for La Roja since 2009, but that should not be the focus. Since joining Arsenal recently, the Spaniard has grown a lot and actually made a name for himself.
With Monreal taking over for Alba, it will allow for the rest of the back line to remain intact. Against France, Spain cannot afford to make too many changes, especially on the defensive side of things.
It is expected that Del Bosque will bring back his double pivot, world-class midfield that has won so many games. The return of Xavi and Xabi Alonso means the duo should start such an important game with Sergio Busquets as the third midfielder.
But the double pivot will prove to be more important against France than at first look.
France will look to attack Spain and have all the tools to score goals. With Alonso and Busquets covering the back line, chances will be very hard to come by for the French attackers.
So starting his first choice midfield will likely be the choice for Del Bosque. But, this also means that players such as Iniesta will need to be pushed forward if they are to see the pitch.
With David Silva forced to miss the match with France, Del Bosque will have plenty of options to replace the winger. Pedro stands the best chance of getting the nod, and his recent scoring streak with Spain will need to continue if La Roja is going to win.
But the biggest issue for the forwards remains with the last two spots.
Cesc Fabregas has been occupying the false nine role for Spain, while David Villa has been pushed out wide on the wing. But with no room for Andres Iniesta in the midfield, someone will have to be dropped.
Fans should expect Fabregas to be the odd man out after a terrible outing against Finland.
This means that David Villa will return to his natural position as a center forward while Iniesta takes up shop on the left wing.
Scoring will be difficult for Spain, but Vicente Del Bosque knows that La Roja needs a strong result.
Who should start for Spain? Will La Roja pull off a win against France? Don’t forget to leave your thoughts and comments below.
Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on Spain and their World Cup run.